Sociology | Social Problems & Policies
S101 | 20341 | Steensland

Topic:	Moral Controversy in American Politics

In recent years, people have proclaimed that America is being torn
apart by a culture war.  Scholars and political commentators worry
that the American ideal- E Pluribus Unum, Out of Many, One – is
becoming unattainable because our society is divided, like never
before, over cultural and moral issues.  According to this viewpoint,
there is a battle for America’s soul being fought between
traditionalists (who hold conservative, orthodox beliefs) and
progressives (who hold more liberal, often secular beliefs).  The
field of battle includes issues such as gay marriage, abortion,
evolution, euthanasia, sex education, and a variety of church-state
issues.  At stake in this battle, according to many, are radically
different visions of what American society should be like.

This course will discuss and evaluate this ‘culture wars’ thesis and
then closely examine three topics that have generated moral conflict
in recent years: abortion, homosexuality, and evolution.  The course
is intended neither to change your beliefs nor to determine what is
‘right’ and ‘wrong’, but to provide you with strategies for thinking
about moral controversies in a more informed way.  We will introduce a
number of concepts that can help us think about these issues more
clearly by understanding their political and social dimensions.  We
will learn about the role of religion in American public life, since
morality and religion are closely intertwined in the U.S.  We will
place contemporary cultural debates in a broader historical context by
examining similar debates during the past 100 years.  We will look at
changes in American culture since the 1960s that many people believe
have caused the recent upsurge in moral conflict.  We will outline
some proposals for dealing with moral disagreements.  And we will
evaluate whether America is really as divided as some people claim.